Saturday, February 27, 2010

How Does Your Horse Take Treats?

I was thinking about how horses take treats from your hand (assuming you hand-feet treats; I know some people don't), and if it says anything about the horse's personality. Maisie, when I got her, did not know what a treat was, and it took her a while to learn to take them. She also had some dental problems back then that make it hard for her to chew - she even had trouble biting off pieces of carrots. Maisie is a gobbler and a sniffer - she likes to gently snuff-a-whuff to see if I have one, and then gobbles it from my hand, and sometimes doesn't seem to distinguish too well between treat and fingers. Noble is diffident about it; he never begs and takes the treat very deliberately. Dawn is delicate and precise. I've been doing clicker work with Dawn, and so she is trained to take a small step back before I offer her a treat. I can hold the smallest treat out with the tips of my fingers and she will very delicately take it just with her lips - no teeth. She often will hold it there for a moment before eating it. I think this treat-taking behavior is actually pretty consistent with their personalities, although I don't know if that's just coincidence - the sample size is too small!

Dawn and Maisie had some good playtime at turnout today. Maisie actually invited Dawn (who is dominant; Maisie's very submissive) to play face tag, bobbing her head, pawing with one front leg and doing her little half-rear in place - this is usually, in my experience, more of a gelding game - and Dawn played for a moment before driving Maisie away. Dawn also likes to herd Maisie as if she were a cow - Dawn, although a TB, has worked cows and really enjoys it and has very good instincts. Then Dawn decided it was time to really rock and roll - she squealed and galloped around, throwing in big bucks for good measure. At one point she did a sequence of every-one-stride lead changes while flinging her head from side to side - this is a signature Dawn move. Then she did her excited paw/rear/roll sequence, ending with a leap into the air followed immediately by a huge buck, then more galloping.

When Miranda was doing some of her threatening gestures at me - I drove her away - Dawn took umbrage at that, although otherwise she's pretty much been ignoring Miranda. Dawn came over to fenceline - I was standing in the aisle between the mares' turnout and Miranda's paddock - and stuck her head over, pinning her ears and shaking her head, and biting the fence from time to time. I don't know if she was guarding me, or simply took Miranda's actions as a challenge to her (Dawn's) authority in the herd.

My daughter should be arriving home from Florida this afternoon, and will then have a chance to evaluate Miranda and her behavior.


  1. Both my Boyz are good about treats. Yeah, they may get nosy about it, but they are never grabby.

    I am anxious to hear how Miranda reacts to your daughter's return and your daughter's take on the situation.

  2. Well, my father in law has been slipping Sonny carrots and apple bits lately. (I always know when Pop is here. Sonny YELLLLLLS and gets all kinds of excited. Funny to watch..) Sonny is pretty good about things. He likes small bites over large, and takes a good bit of time chewing. His teeth are good- I really think he likes to "savor the flavor" and enjoy his treats. I think he is getting more rotten by the day!

    Fingers crossed and prayers sent for Miranda and your daughter.

  3. I only give treats to my Princess horse, cause she is so gentle about it. She "begs for them by giving hugs. Its so cute. Razz gets over anxious and tries to eat your fingers, so she only gets treats in a bowl.

    Im glad to hear another horse does the lead change every stride, cause I have a mare and if we arent making some sort of circle, she does that. It gets hard to ride after a while. I never seen her do it in pasture yet though.

  4. My Boys are pretty good about mostly lips on the treats, but I always guard my fingers carefully anyhow. I try not to feed too many by hand because it does tend to make the Boys pushy/nippy, but sometimes I just can't resist.

    I love watching the horses play. They show their true personalities out in the field with their herdmates.

  5. Lena is excellent-if demanding-about treats, always using just her lips. We do have to work on her not frisking people, though, so I try to work on giving her the treat only when she's not in my face.

    Bar was pretty bad when we got him, but he was also a biter, which we had to curb. Most would have told us not to hand treat him, but he learned and is now much, much more careful and much less grabby than he was.

  6. Bonnie is very curious - she watches everything you do when the treat bag comes out. The she takes it very carefully, just lips from your hand.

    Rosie gets nosey but respectful. She too uses her lips, but some times she opens them too wide and gets my whole hand. Got to remember Rosie is a Percheron - she has BIG lips and mouth LOL!

  7. My gelding become visibly excited at the thought of treats, we have to do carrot stretches to work his back. I used to use clicker training but I don't bother now, I found my horse much more manic about the treats than if I just use the treat itself. Also, I'm not great at it!

    He's pretty good, a little grabby but with lips not teeth. He's a bit of a pocket snuffler but usually over the door, not whilst I'm in with him.

    I hope your daughter enjoyed her time in Florida and I hope all goes well with Miranda.

  8. Good topic! Panama takes treats eagerly, even expectantly, yet without being rude about it -- he knows I'll give him plenty, but he ALSO knows that I WON'T if he's pushy about it.

    Recently I taught him to nod his head "yes" when I ask him if he wants a treat. I just thought it would be cute, but the unexpected benefit is that if he wants a treat and I'm not offering one, instead of looking for one he nods. ;o)

    Panama doesn't just pluck the treat off your hand, barely touching you, the way some horses do. When he takes the treat, he takes it with his lips, but he also puts his muzzle into your hand as he does it. He's gotten my fingers by accident a couple of times, but only with his lips -- he seems to know the difference between fingers and treats.

  9. Abby is half draft, but basically looks like a percheron. She has be big mouth. She is not bad about taking treats but always seems to engulf my whole hand when I give her treats. I am very careful with her. The minis are all really nice about it. Sophie the donkey is the sniffer and thinker and then taker. She is very gentle. Her son on the other hand doesn't mind if he gets a little flesh with the treat. He is getting better. Kinsey is pretty nice but she is half afraid most of the time.

    Long ago when I had my first horse, she was a princess I bet, I should do her personality. Anyway she take bites off of carrots and apples. She actually expected me to hold the apple for her as she took bites.

  10. Cibolo doesn't like apples at all. He hasn't had much treat experience, but he's very polite and takes a step back.

    Lily is good, but can become a mugger. We've worked on the cue for it and she's doing better.

    Both snif and check and just lip. I maintain that given horses can pick a single type of blade of grass, they can be careful. They have to chose to.

    Hope things go... well this afternoon.

  11. HHHMMMMM How does Sam take treats? Depends what situation we are in. If other horses are around he grabs and makes sure he gets the most but if it is just the two of us he is much more gentle. Likes to snuff them out but isn't pushy about it. He is also good about what he has before looking for more!

  12. Mosco (big TB)is pretty careful when he takes treats. I don't know that he's ever gotten me with his teeth; it's almost all lips. I break the rules & usually give him treats held between my fingers & somehow he knows the difference. It's easier for him to get them that way. In general, he's a very sweet, sensitive guy & a people pleaser. Barrett (Paint) came with a history of being VERY mouthy & pushy (prior owners fed him copious amounts of treats & didn't enforce personal space). He's pretty good now, but sometimes his teeth get mixed in a bit. I like to handfeed treats in order to teach them how to take them appropriately. Right now we're working on holding their faces to the side until I hand them the treat. I don't care to be mugged!

  13. Forgot to say, I do wonder if Dawn was being somewhat protective of you. I know Mosco (despite my rule of no horsey aggression when I'm within their fence) has gotten aggressive toward other horses when he feels they're threatening toward me. Which I find interesting, since I would say he considers me the "alpha mare" or whatever you'd want to call it. He certainly seems to have a hefty sense of respect for me.
    It would never occur to Barrett to protect his human; he doesn't even get involved in herd politics himself. Do you have any horses like that in your herd? He just keeps out of the scuffles that take place & doesn't seem to have any interest in his place in the herd, but he's not antisocial. He just seems very neutral about the whole herd hierarchy stuff.

  14. I don't give treats very often anymore--if ever--not sure why. When I did, they were always very gentle with their lips from the palm of my hand. The Mustang, of course, didn't take them for a long time--or grain either. Everything had to be introduced to her slowly.

    It will be interesting to see the reunion between your daughter and Miranda. Looking forward to reading about it.

  15. Lexi becomes a monkey when you give her treats, and as you said with Maisie, she is so enthusiastic she does not always distinguish treats from fingers. Bonnie is enthusiastic but never does anything more than lip them up eagerly. Sky is very precise and diplomatic about it and will not eat a treat unless she is sure it is really ok. I don't think she'd ever really had treats until I got her a few months ago. She didn't seem to know what to think of the whole process.

  16. All my horses eat treats from my hand ,but they learn early on to be gentle and lip it off my palm, if they get too mouthy they ge a little pop from my palm and they back off.
    My thoughts are with you the next couple days with the issues around Miranda .I know you and your daughter will make the best choice for all

  17. When I got Denali she wasn't quite know what treats were. Now she doesn't know how to live without them.

    She likes peppermints, BUT you need to suck on them first. If you don't, she'll spit them out.

    I also can't give her any treats before I ride her. She's convinced then that she's done and that she doesn't need to do any work.

    She's a silly, silly pony.

    My thoughts are with you and your daughter (and family) as you evaluate Miranda and her behavior.

  18. My Wa mare lives for goodies and I have learned to be extra careful and pay attention to- "WHEN"- I give them to her, so as not to create the 1,000 pound

    I usually only give them to her if things are tense and she does well by listening in a situation.
    I leave apples and carrots in her feed bin for her to find.
    Sometimes we do stretches...but I have found that if I am standing near her mid section...he may clock me with her head, for thinking I have a a forward stretch is all I do now.

    I have treats by my grooming station to the left of her stall. When her stall guard is up I walk over there for brushes ans boots and what ever...she will often come to the stall guard and toss her her ears(I am told) and when I look around..she is all sweet and stretches her lips long towards me...TREAT??!!

    As to how she takes a treat...she delicately uses her tippy lips to take an item. It is quite delicate! I have also trained her to come to me/lower her head, by clicking...I never do it any other time!

  19. You should try catching their play time on video. I would love to see the head tossing lead change thing. Sounds cute!!


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